Friday, October 13, 2006

Pittsburgh Presbytery at Hamilton: C: Ordination overture

During the meeting Pittsburgh Presbytery on October 12 at the Hamilton Presbyterian Church the presbytery approved the overture on ordination standards that had been introduced at the previous meeting. The vote was 148-105.

It is unclear what the effect of this resolution will be, but the intention seems to be to make "fidelity within the covenant of marriage or chastity in singleness" an essential tenet of the Reformed faith so that the ordination of a person out of compliance would not even be considered.

The debate at this meeting was limited in time and did not get far beyond procedural issues. When the time limit of 20 minutes was reached, an attempt to extend debate for 30 minutes failed. It might have stood a better chance if the requested extension had been for 20 minutes or less.

One attempt to amend the overture was ruled out of order. At the previous meeting, one of the critics of the overture had pointed out that the overture only addresses the ordination of ministers of Word and Sacrament, and does not address elders and deacons. The obvious reason for this limitation is that a presbytery has no jurisdiction over elders and deacons, who are ordained by the sessions of the congregations. The proposed amendment at yesterday's meeting would have broadened the overture to address elders and deacons. When the Stated Clerk pointed out that the proposed amendment would make the resulting overture contrary to the constitution, the Moderator ruled the proposed amendment out of order.

When the debate was closed, a request was made that the presbytery pray before voting and use ballots to vote. The Stated Clerk produced pre-printed ballots that showed the resolving clauses of the overture. I was a bit dismayed that although the Presbytery had agreed to pray before voting, there were people already folding their ballots and passing them in while ballots were still being distributed in the back, and before the prayer. Some people had their minds made up.

The Stated Clerk announced during the meeting that there were two protests filed against the action. Protests are statements that a member believes the action to have been irregular. At the conclusion of the meeting there was a crowd of ministers and elders around the Clerk's table reading and subscribing to the protests.

Screenshot from taken on October 6, 2006 at 7:28 AM EDT, click to view larger versionThe vote yesterday fulfilled the apparent prophecy made on the website of the Presbyterian Layman, which had been announcing as recently as October 6 that Pittsburgh Presbytery had already approved the overture. I've seen newspapers make accurate predictions before, but claiming that the events have already occurred seems to bend a journalistic rule somewhere.

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My other articles about this meeting: A. Welcome B. Worship with Ben Freudenburg C: Ordination overture D. Vocational matters E. Reflective listening about property F. Awards and honors

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